Tobago properties are being encouraged to reopen to Trinidad, the market right on the doorstep, as if we are the world.
To revitalise the tourism sector for Tobago in the post-covid19 world is not rocket science. The people of our two islands already possess the intelligence, skill and adaptability to develop and maintain such a service industry. Awareness of country assets is something that can be learned; as well as an understanding of what draws visitors to our country. In Trinidad, we know about Carnival and pan. In Tobago, we have beaches and pristine landscapes.
Certainly, one of the most compelling attractions in Tobago, and more so Trinidad, is the ease and grace with which our multi-culturalism presents itself. It’s in the festivals – not only Carnival and Divali and Baptist Liberation, in the celebrations of small churches all over Tobago – in our diverse and inventive cuisine, and traditions and customs drawn from many continents. Indeed, and not to be taken for granted, our first engaging quality is the commingling of races in the faces of our people. The second must be the variety and accessibility of nature across the two islands. People, culture and nature are our greatest assets.
It is my opinion that any tourism campaign for Tobago could have been created right here in TT. Now, push comes to shove, let’s begin to engage ourselves, our own people in the appreciation and promotion of TT. Let us present ourselves to ourselves: Tobago to Trinidad, and Trinidad to Tobago. In so doing, we will create the product that we can be proud of, and proud to share with anyone from the rest of the world. The nearness of Tobago: Trinidad and Tobago are inextricably bound. Why should we even be challenged to be separate or attempt to duplicate efforts unless it is for redundancy and resilience. One island offsets the other: you don’t get to appreciate the natural and idyllic splendours of Tobago without having imbibed the mélange that is Trinidad. This is one of the biggest and main reasons that Trinis love Tobago, its nature and it’s nearby. Bring your car on the ferry or take the Caribbean Airlines airbridge; it’s easy to rent a car in Tobago.
Stay in a village; because Tobago has held on to its village and communal lifestyle, you can stay in a village anywhere around the island. Along the Windward road, there is the powerful pounding Atlantic. On the west coast, you overlook the Caribbean Sea. These are two distinct and different bodies of water that bathe Tobago. The villages on the east coast, the Windward side include Lambeau; Lowlands; Bacolet; Pembroke; Belle Garden; Roxborough; Delaford; Kings Bay and Speyside.
On the west or Caribbean side, find Buccoo; Mt Irvine; Plymouth; Moriah; Culloden; Castara; Parlatuvier; Charlotteville. Explore the history and settlement of the island at the museum at Fort King George. The villages allow you to slow down and melt into the lifestyle, to talk with people, to discover their specialities whether it is freshly baked bread, curried crab, fried fish, goat and crab racing, fishing, diving, or something else.
Learn from the locals: trust the tour guides and forest rangers to tell you about the oldest forest reserve in the western hemisphere. A guided tour with those entrusted to safeguard its boundaries, its trees and plants, the animals and birds, is a valuable and entertaining education.
Stay close to the beach: Castara has created its unique village package which welcomes visitors from Trinidad or Germany like old friends. If you prefer the more formal and traditional accommodation and hospitality, the hotels on the Caribbean coast like Grafton, Mt Irvine, will please you. Charlotteville is another Tobago village with a distinctive way of life.
Explore the ocean: most bays in Tobago have coral reefs that you can snorkel. On a calm day the reefs in Mt Irvine and Arnos Vale are easy for beginners as they’re close to shore.
If you want to be alone, you can have that too. Tobago has given celebrities looking for getaway and seclusion, privacy and comfort. There are a number of villas with breathtaking views around the island; some are publicised only by word of mouth. There are villas in Mt Irvine, rustic bungalows off the Main Ridge (Parlatuvier) and Charlotteville. Splurge, mix and mingle. Villa Being or Villa Petrus may be more expensive than staying in your own home, but the luxury of premium Tobago is easily affordable compared with other Caribbean islands.
Night-life is spectacular: under a million stars, you can stir the water in a lagoon and see the bioluminescence bloom around your swirling arms. If you want more gregarious activity, visit the neighbourhood bars. Visit Castara for their bonfire nights.
Trinis have a simple formula of beach, lime and bar hopping on Tobago’s version of the Avenue (the Pigeon Point junction with Milford Road). Most Trinis may not leave the southside of Tobago or go past Scarborough, but we encourage you to step out to discover a different Tobago.
Family trips beyond the beach: waterfalls, like the one at Argyll, are easy treks for kids.
The year 2020 might be an unconventional school year, but there are educational opportunities everywhere in Tobago. Keep a bird log for when you trek or drive through the Main Ridge or through the boardwalk and the wetlands of Petit Trou and Bon Accord Lagoon. There are 230 bird species in Tobago. Take the boat ride to Little Tobago to get a close-up view of the nesting tropic birds – the awesome oceanic birds. Snorkel and count fish in the Buccoo Reef.
Iconic heritage sites: the silk cotton tree in Moriah; the legend of Gang Gang Sara who lived in Les Coteaux; the mystery tombstone of Plymouth, the Courland Monument, Robinson Crusoe beach and the many forts around the island are easily accessible. Visit the museum and restored fortifications at Fort King George, overlooking Scarborough.
What’s in it for Tobago: with a revitalised tourism sector, Tobago can hold on to its authentic, small village lifestyle which is one of the greatest attractions in a globalised world. “Small is beautiful” and sustainable, and resilient. Let us cherish and support Tobago’s regard for its natural reserves: the oldest protected rainforest; and the coral reefs around the island. Let Tobago be known as the guardian of the wonders of the deep ocean still to be explored.